Stormzy has said it feels “way too heavy and too overwhelming” and that he has found his “purpose” after being hailed as a trailblazer by Time magazine.
The London-born grime star was chosen by the publication for its 2019 Next Generation Leaders list along with activists, innovators and artists who are “shaping the world”.
He also appears on its front cover, an achievement the Vossi Bop star has said is one of his “absolute proudest moments”.
Stormzy, real name Michael Omari, wrote on Instagram: “I can’t even comprehend this. I am on the cover of TIME. I’ve stared at this cover for a few minutes and it feels like one of those ‘how the f*** did man get here?!’ moments.
“God’s favour and the everlasting love and support you guys show me has elevated me to a place in life where this South London kid is worthy enough to grace the cover of the most prestigious publication in the World.
“This is a huge honour – one of TIME’s Next Generation Leaders. I wanna thank God for purpose – I say this because anyone who knows me knows how much I shy away from being anything other than ‘Mike’.”
The 26-year-old rapper added: “On a deeper, honest one the thought of being a ‘role model’ or ‘leader’ or whatever it is feels way way way too heavy and too overwhelming and a lot of the time I think nahhhh f*** all that I ain’t no-one’s anything lol I can’t even bare (sic) the weight of being myself let alone any of these other titles so everyone get off me I ain’t s*** lol.
“I am deeply flawed and still learning how to be a man and still figuring out how to grow into the person I need to be but within all of that confusion and all the juggling of being a human and trying to be a superhuman – I have purpose.
“And my purpose has lead me here. Big Mike for TIME ya na.”
Time contributor and author Reni Eddo-Lodge, who interviewed Stormzy – who this year became the first black British solo artist to ever headline Glastonbury Festival and who has launched his own publishing imprint to help young writers become published authors – for the issue, tweeted: “It was an honour to profile @stormzy for the cover of @TIME.
“We had such an interesting chat about his music, advocacy, and his deliberate intentions to share the limelight with Black British talent. An iconic cover image, too!”
Stormzy has been praised for his work in bringing visibility to a wider community of black musicians, artists and creators in the UK.
He told the magazine: “There’s always been a kind of lack of spotlight and shine on the black British side of British culture.
“(But) there’s a whole world of it … It’s a beautiful thing, and it’s coming of age right now.”
He added: “I know I’m the product of bare injustice … There are so many iconic, legendary, more influential grime songs that are never going to sell as much records as I’ve sold.
“This is why I’m always so thankful for being in the position I am. I feel like all those artists or public figures or celebrities who went through that, had to go through that … they didn’t have the luxury of being free with their music, and they had to bite that bullet for me. So I love and respect all those people, for all their decisions.”
Stormzy is joined in the issue by trailblazers including Australian mental health activist Amanda Johnstone, Russian anti-Kremlin blogger Alexander Gorbunov, Zainab Fasiki, a Moroccan feminist tackling misogyny through comics, and Brazilian drag queen and pop star Pabllo Vittar.
Of the 2019 Next Generation Leaders list, Time deputy international editor Naina Bajekal said: “It can be easy to feel like today’s problems are insurmountable.
“So it gives me hope to spotlight the people using their voices to push for change.”